Soyameal off-take from the food sector has picked up with consumers showing preference to the extract of the oilseed to meet their protein needs.

The Soyabean Processors Association of India (SOPA), the apex trade body, estimates a 33 per cent increase in demand for soyameal from the food sector at 8 lakh tonnes in the current oil year 2021-22 (October-September) from 6 lakh tonnes last year. This increase in projections is based on the growth trend witnessed, so far, in the current oil year.

In the first five months of the oil year 2021-22, the soyameal offtake in the food sector was estimated at 3.45 lakh tonnes, up 35 per cent from 2.55 lakh tonnes in the same period a year ago.

“The demand is certainly going up in the food sector as a lot of people have taken to soyameal because of the high protein content. We expect the demand will continue to go up further. We are planning to start a programme to increase the demand for soyameal from the food sector by creating public awareness,” D N Pathak, Executive Director, SOPA said. A concept note for the proposed industry driven awareness programme is being prepared, he said.

In India, the soyameal consumption for food is very low at around 10 per cent of the production, while the rest is all consumed by the feed sector. “We want to see it doubled over the next 3-4 years,” Pathak said.

Meanwhile, the production of soyameal dropped 37 per cent during the October-February period at 27.14 lakh tonnes compared with 43.10 lakh tonnes in the same period a year ago. The dip in production is largely attributed to the lower market arrivals of the soyabean as farmers continue to hold back the produce anticipating prices to go up. In fact, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has sparked a rally in the edible oil complex.

The high soyameal price has dented the demand for meal from the poultry sector, which in turn has led to lower crushing, Pathak said. As a result of reduced offtake, SOPA expects the overall crushing to be lower at 88 lakh tonnes against the earlier projections of 90 lakh tonnes.

“Looking at the current market scenario, lower crushing and slow meal off-take, we have pruned the whole year crushing, local demand of soyameal and soyabean import estimates. Crushing has been revised to 88 lakh tonnes from earlier 90 lakh tonnes, import of soyabean to 3.5 lakh tons from earlier 4 lakh tonnes and local meal consumption to 56 lakh tonnes from 58 lakh tonnes,” Pathak said.